When we talk about sales coaching, most often we think of a sales manager offering advice, suggestions, and assistance to a member of their sales team. But this type of coaching is only one layer of an effective coaching system.
Collaborative coaching is an approach to coaching that creates a virtuous cycle of continuous improvement, while leveraging all the skills and abilities of your team to succeed together.
Collaborative coaching is the process of improving performance through a process of mutual discovery, assistance, and guidance. In a collaborative coaching model, two or more individuals work together to discover needs, goals, gaps, and solutions. In sales, collaborative coaching can refer to a collaborative relationship between a manager and the team members they manage, but it can also refer to a broader culture that includes peer coaching and cross-departmental coaching.
Collaborative coaching in sales can take three primary forms:
Collaborative coaching between a salesperson and their manager occurs when the manager approaches coaching as a conversation and relationship. A collaborative coach in this context is one who asks good questions and helps the salesperson to discover their own answers, rather than only dictating to them what they should and shouldn’t be doing (which isn’t coaching at all).
Collaborative coaching among multiple members of a sales team occurs when team members are encouraged and enabled to provide each other with useful insights, tips, and encouragement on a regular basis. It can be informal, when a team member sees that another salesperson could use a little help, or it can include a formal system of collaboration in which team members routinely review each other’s work and share best practices, insight, and support.
Fostering a collaborative coaching environment starts with a mindset shift, from a focus on individual performance to group excellence.
Collaborative coaching across departments occurs when silos are broken down to enable sales team members to access the insight, knowledge, and support of people within other departments. For instance, customer service teams might provide coaching insights into how to interact with existing accounts, while product development teams might interact with sales teams to help them understand and better position new features of the product (or the other way around.) This cross-pollination of expertise and support can go the other way, as well, when other departments are coached to interact with prospects and customers to help them make a better buying decision.
Collaborative coaching requires substantially more investment, intention, and planning than simply asking managers to coach and advise sales teams. However, its benefits can be wide-ranging:
Fostering a collaborative coaching environment starts with a mindset shift, from a focus on individual performance to group excellence. To set your team up for success, make sure you’re aligning your compensation and promotion systems to reward collaborative behavior.
Then equip your teams with the right process, tools, and structure to support routine and systematic collaborative coaching. Routine collaborative coaching should take place during key account meetings as well as on a day to day basis.
If you’re using Membrain, you can use the commenting function to foster collaborative coaching and transparency by encouraging team members to comment on each other’s pipeline and accounts, to request help from each other, and to provide productive feedback directly within the workflow.
When making promotion decisions, it can be valuable to pay attention to which salespeople are participating actively in sales team meetings with valuable feedback, versus who holds their “secret sauce” back. You can also judge the quality of comments within the pipeline to see who has the right mindset and the skills to provide good coaching.
If your team has been accustomed to a siloed approach to sales, it can take time to cultivate a more collaborative approach to coaching. But with all of the potential benefits, it’s an effort worth making.
George is the founder & CEO of Membrain, the Sales Enablement CRM that makes it easy to execute your sales strategy. A life-long entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the software space and a passion for sales and marketing. With the life motto "Don't settle for mainstream", he is always looking for new ways to achieve improved business results using innovative software, skills, and processes. George is also the author of the book Stop Killing Deals and the host of the Stop Killing Deals webinar and podcast series.
Find out more about George Brontén on LinkedIn